Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

July 4, 2013

The cold, hard facts of summer's heat

The Andover Townsman

---- — Yogi Berra nailed it: “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

It takes some humor to get through the weather pattern that has long outstayed its welcome.

With temperatures stuck in the 80s and 90s, gardens need extra attention. But just as the hose is being coiled after a good soaking, the sky opens up and soon there are puddles at every turn.

The windows up, windows down debate takes place daily over many breakfast tables. Dress for the beach, but bring an umbrella.

Even National Weather Service meteorologists were shaking their heads. What’s needed is a good strong cold front to break this pattern more suited to mid-August than summer’s arrival.

But they have been scarcer than nights cool enough for a blanket.

“I haven’t found one yet,” a meteorologist with the NWS joked last week, “but we’ll keep looking.”

America’s Southwest is gripped by a deadly heat wave that has shattered decades-old records. The temperature reached 117 on Sunday in Las Vegas, which averaged 91.5 degrees in June, making it the warmest June on record, according to the NWS. On Saturday, when the temperature reached 115 in Las Vegas, a man was found dead in his un-air conditioned home.

Temperatures also soared over 100 in much of California, Utah and Arizona.

The heat wave was even threatening the world record of 134 degrees set in Death Valley, Calif., in 1911. It was 129 there Sunday.

Meteorologists blame a dome of high pressure that has pushed the jet stream off course and into Canada, locking out cooler air from the north.

They predict at least several more days of punishing heat.

Later June temperatures haven’t been as extreme here in New England, generally hitting highs in the low 80s. But high humidity has made it feel worse, and the region has been pounded by a series of thunderstorms. Monday afternoon, a rare tornado warning threw a scare into the Merrimack Valley.

And the weather service’s extended outlook indicates hotter weather is still ahead, with highs of 90 here for the Fourth of July and continuing into next week.

July heat waves are certainly not unheard of hereabouts. One old weather joke has it that there are really only two seasons in New England: winter and Fourth of July.

Discomfort aside, the weather of late also brings with it some very real danger, from flash flooding to lightning strikes to children and animals left in locked cars.

All the things your mother told you about lightning are true. Get away from the water. Don’t take shelter under a tree. Act quickly. By the time thunder rumbles overhead, the lightning already has struck.

Some two dozen Boy Scouts escaped serious injury when a sudden storm rolled through their camp last week and they suffered lightning burns.

A Derry, N.H., mother left her two toddlers in a locked car with the windows barely cracked while she shopped at Wal-Mart. The temperature was above 90 degrees at the time and the children were in that car for more than 20 minutes.

At that temperature, the interior of a car can reach 119 degrees within 20 minutes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If not for the actions of several concerned citizens, the outcome could have been much worse.

Peruse the local police logs. Officers are pretty steadily called to respond to reports of dogs left unattended in this heat in parked cars.

Speak up. Get involved. Maybe you’ll save a life.

The weather will change; it always does.

But in the meantime, check on elderly neighbors, stay hydrated, keep a watchful eye on the sky and for those who can’t defend themselves.